Children whose parents are separated are nine times more likely to commit a crime than those who are brought up in 'stable' families, a cabinet minister has claimed.
Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary for Work and Pensions, blamed the collapse of marriage for soaring crime rates and accused Labour of undermining family life in a speech yesterday. He said the country had paid a 'heavy price' in deeper poverty, high crime and poor life chances for the children of families that failed to stay together.
Speaking to representatives of the counselling charity Relate, Duncan Smith said: 'It is important that we recognise the role of marriage in building a strong society, especially if we want to give children the best chance in life,' he said.
'Sadly, the last government seemed determined to undermine marriage – for example, by removing references to it from official forms.
'Lone-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than two-parent families. Only 30 per cent of young offenders grew up with both parents. Children from broken homes are nine times more likely to become young offenders.'
He added: 'Family life affects all of us – what happens on our streets; in our communities; and in our economy. What you learn from a very early age has a great deal to say about the person you will eventually become and the life you lead.'
'We would be foolish to ignore the weight of evidence which shows just how influential family life can be to life outcomes.
Duncan Smith quoted figures from different sources putting the cost to the country of family breakdown at between £20billion and £40billion a year.
He promised that the Coalition would support 'committed, stable relationships with two parents that produce the best outcomes for adults and children'.
The speech reverses Labour's policies set out shortly after Tony Blair's 1997 election victory which said that all kind of families, no matter whether two birth parents were involved, were as good as each other.
What do you think?
Do children suffer more if their parents aren't married?
Should all families be valued, regardless of marital status?
Or does marriage equal stability?